Ice TV has emerged victorious against the Nine Network in a landmark High Court decision handed down Wednesday morning.
A bench of six judges found that IceTV had not breached Nine's copyright by using information from the network's programming schedule to produce its own electronic guide.
The decision - which overturned last year's ruling by the Full Federal Court in favour of Nine - is the final hurdle for IceTV in the three-year fight which has been coined a "David and Goliath" battle.
In its judgment, the court emphasised that the factual information used in Nine's schedule -program titles and times - were not themselves protected by copyright. Rather, it was the particular form of expression and compliation of those facts that warranted protection.
The court concluded that by simply reproducing program names and times, IceTV had not reproduced "a substantial part" of Nine's work.
The solicitor representing IceTV, Bartier Perry executive lawyer Mark Petrucco, said that the decision was significant because it was a departure from previous Australian copyright case law, bringing it into line with the law in the US and Europe.
"Those jurisdictions have found that there is no copyright in the information stored in the database - you actually have to look at the creativity and intellectual spark in the product being produced. It has certainly moved Australia into the 21st century as to how to treat information stored electronically and at what point copyright would be attached in a compilation work," he said.
Middletons partner Tony Watson agreed that the decision seems to run counter to the reasoning in previous Australian case law, including Telstra v Desktop Marketing  FCA 612, where the Federal Court held that copyright exists in data compiled in telephone directories.
"On my reading of the case, it seems to be at odds with Desktop," he told Lawyers Weekly. "Every case would have to be examined on its merits ... but it would seem that the name, address and phone number of someone would be akin to the name of the program and the time of scheduling ... so I think there's a real likelihood that, based on this decision, Desktop may well have been decided differently."